By Ayo Alonge
Angie Thomas-Jibodu is the chief executive officer of JT Angies Emporium Limited, a chain of companies into interior decoration, real estate, events planning, travels and tours as well as logistics. She is also the convener of the Eleventh Fashion Show set to be staged in Lagos.
In this interview, the UK-trained entrepreneur reveals that she started up as a teenager and has passionately achieved so much in business, although she’s still striving harder.
How long did you nurse your entrepreneurial skills before taking your first bold step?
I can say forever, because I basically started doing business at a tender age, say 14. I made my first income at age 11. For my company, this is actually the tenth anniversary.
How much was your first income?
It was about N8,000. We started with an interior department of a group of companies. As a child, I did a lot of my things with needles. You know virtually everybody did that. I made my first income by making duvets and pillows for a client. I have never been satisfied with working for people only, I have always thought of working on my own.
What made you quit working for people to start your own business?
I would say I served under one big man called Mr. Sanusi. He discovered my creativity and business acumen and gave me a lot of opportunities to explore them . I told myself that if this man could trust and believe in me this much, then it is better for me to start on my own. Subsequently, I just moved on. Regarding challenges, I would say I have been quite lucky. If you are good at what you are doing, people can actually trust you and delegate duties to you. That is the level I have gone in my life in terms of business.
What has it been like in business now, considering how you started?
In the business, we have basically the interior department, real estate department, events, travels and tours and logistics. In terms of all I have been able to achieve as an entrepreneur, I can give myself say six and a half out of 10.
Could you tell us about your little beginnings in business?
Those were quite challenging times when it was very difficult for people to trust me to execute contracts for them. At that time, it was little money or no money at all. I just told myself it’s just a matter of time and I would get better. Today, so far, so good and we are going places.
What has been your driving force since you started?
The drive has always been my late father. I’m driven by my late father who always believed in me. The challenge is getting people to trust you. My father, of blessed memory, always tapped me on the back and told me “girl, I believe you can do it.” I always told myself if I fall and fail today, I would always rise again. That is what business is about. Sometimes you fail. The best of the best failed once before they got to where they are today. If you fail, just keep moving.
How did you start interior decoration and what’s your message to many out there?
Interior decoration requires creativity and I am very creative. I started as a child. I painted, I climbed ladders and I also did a lot of designing. I would say I was a little bit of a tomboy. I love to see my finishing come out well. I may have to scrap some work I’ve almost completed and start from scratch, at times with little or no money. People see you and give you another job and you get better that way. We have a lot of training for people to hone their skills in interior decoration. It is an angle of rediscovering yourself and not having to sponge saying there is no job. There is always a job for you. Sometimes, you may not make good money but don’t worry about that. If you are good, someone would always recognize and call you.
How did you venture into real estate too?
Real estate is very wide. People usually ask me what pushed me into it. When I do my interior work, clients would always want to lease their apartments. So, I would call my clients for such transactions. I wasn’t usually too comfortable with the fact that I was the go-between. I am always concerned about perfect touches on what I do and that is why I started it. We don’t build from the scratch, we only do interior designing and that is why we have engineers on board who we work with. That is it, basically.
What would you say is responsible for your success, as an entrepreneur?
Creativity in interior designing and events management goes together. I have achieved so much success, because my charges are reasonable. I like to encourage people to take up the task of venturing and I help run their events for them at little cost and I do it with ease.
Have you ever recorded any major loss in business?
Sometimes, I don’t make so much profit and it’s only reasonable to let people know about it. If you don’t make profit, you don’t call it a loss because the fact is that you are gaining experience and you are gaining clients and knowledge. Every client that comes my way gives me more knowledge.
Aside gaining clients and knowledge, how much of money do you gain too?
(Laughs) That’s very confidential. I earn my living and I am able to pay my workers. We have an event called My Low Budget Event. We host a fairytale event in the middle of this recession.
How many of your goals have you been able to achieve?
A lot of us write out things we want to achieve. I feel fulfilled because I am able to pursue my passion and make a living from that. That is a goal for me.
What’s your message to budding businessmen/women?
Work hard and believe in yourself.
How do you unwind?
I watch movies and read novels. I also love traveling.